How To Start As A Volunteer Manager In An Existing Volunteer Program | Track It Forward

How To Start As A Volunteer Manager In An Existing Volunteer Program

Written by Kasey Murphy

Picture this: you’ve been volunteering for a while, but never did anything promotional with it. But, there has been a volunteer manager-paid job that opened up for an organization that you would love to support. It’s time to follow your instincts and become a volunteer manager! You have so many ideas and are super excited. But then, you enter the job and realize that your ideas might have to wait because you have to start working in an existing workflow and keep up with old practices from the previous volunteer manager. While you are still excited to be a volunteer manager, you now feel like you have to play catch-up to learn all the things that the old volunteer manager did before you can implement your new, fun, creative ideas. 

This is becoming a volunteer manager in an existing volunteer program, and it is not a position that most people dream of, but one that happens quite often. 

But, there are definitely some pros and advantages to starting a volunteer program from an existing model versus from scratch - especially for a new volunteer coordinator. 

And there are definitely some pros and cons of entering a volunteer program as a volunteer manager for the first time when there has never been a volunteer manager. 

Advantages and disadvantages of Becoming A Volunteer Manager For An Existing Volunteer Program and Volunteer Manager position

You already have volunteers 
Volunteer recruitment is one of the hardest tasks. When you land a volunteer management job in an existing program, the volunteers are there! 

Events are planned 
The organization might have a yearly event that a committee works on, or events that people can refer to when they think of previous successes and fails for you to avoid during the event! 

Tools and software will be set up 
Organizational set-up and volunteer management tools will have already been set up for you to use - hopefully it is a tool and software that you enjoy! 

There might be a budget set up 
Volunteer managers can sometimes get the short straw when it comes to budgeting. If you are taking another volunteer manager's place you know that the conversation of budgets have been brought up before, and you can continue it!


Volunteers can be stubborn
Volunteers can be set in their ways and not so admiring of change sometimes. You could start feeling aversion from them. 

changes to community events might be unwelcome 
Volunteers can be set in their ways and not so admiring of change sometimes. You could start feeling aversion from them. 

you arent familiar with software 
Hopefully, you can have a transition time or find guides on how to use existing software within the organization, so it can actually be helpful! 

Organizational set up does not make sense to you
Volunteer programs can often get sucked into doing things a certain way because

What To Consider When Entering An Existing Volunteer Program As A Volunteer Manager 

First off, congratulations! You got a job as a volunteer manager, and that in itself is something to be proud of, no matter what! As you prepare for the job and the first few months as a volunteer manager, we recommend that you keep some of these things in mind to help ease your mind if you feel overwhelmed. 

It is possible that you love how the volunteer program is set up and you don’t want to change a thing, but it is also possible that everything does not seem to be set up correctly and you don’t see yourself being the best volunteer manager without some changes. 

Either way, it’s okay! Just try to prepare by keeping the following things in mind.

Existing Workflows Might Be Hard To Change 

How the volunteers, employees, and other volunteer leaders work together is something of a machine. Every part depends on the other in some ways. This can be very hard to try to change as a volunteer manager. 

Start off your volunteer program by learning this existing workflow and write down all of the issues you see as an outsider coming in. 

Over a few months you might see an issue arise or an opportunity for improvement and change - take it if it presents itself! Try to stay away from doing a whole overhaul on workflows that might have been hard to implement to start.

For example, if volunteers track their own time via hour logs and they are used to doing this, you probably won’t want to try to get them to start using an event calendar and RSVPs to track their time right away - as this takes time to implement and motivate volunteers to do anyway, let alone when you are disrupting their flow. 

Another great way to analyze existing workflows is to learn how the previous volunteer manager was organizing information and data. By learning their organizational pattern, you might get a better understanding of why they created workflows with volunteers to be how they are. 

And lastly, the dynamic between volunteer leaders, employees, and your volunteer program is an important workflow to evaluate, and probably the hardest one to change. The way that the organization flows is often for a reason, so try to figure out the flow and build your volunteer program from there. 

Take everything one step at a time! 

Take Time to Learn & Transfer Admin Settings on Volunteer Manager Tools 

This might be something that is forgotten, but it should be an easy step! As you are taking over the volunteer program, you should be trained in all the different software tools that the previous volunteer manager had access to while they were working. 

You should also be given the passwords, and make sure that you are marked as an admin on the tools so you can do everything you need to do with the tool. Be sure to ask questions to either the old volunteer manager or even the software administrator if you don’t know why the tool might be useful. 

For example, Track It Forward has multiple articles about transferring ownership, removing members from certain roles, and more! And, we also have guides that any user can read at any time! 

Gaining A Relationship With Volunteers Takes Time 

An important part of being a volunteer manager is having a strong relationship with volunteers! You don’t want them to be afraid of you or not respect you, but you also want them to want to volunteer with you and the program you run! 

Just like a friendship or any relationship - this will take time. 

Think of creative ways to get to know your volunteers in ways that they will enjoy, not just normal ice breakers. And, analyze the different personalities of the volunteers - this is a great article for that! 

And, when it comes time to recruit new volunteers, you’ll be able to use these same practices to build great relationships with them, too.

Tips For Making Changes To An Existing Volunteer Program As A New Volunteer Manager 

When you want to make changes at any stage as a volunteer manager, it seems that a lot of other entities are affected, and this is magnified when you are making changes as a new volunteer manager to an established volunteer program! 

Top 5 Tips For 
Making Changes To A Volunteer Program 

Be overly open and honest with volunteers about why the changes are happening!
Gather Insight & Support From Volunteer Leaders or Senior Volunteers
Express concern or dislike about something right away, so it is considered a priority.
Slow & Steady Wins The Race - While It Might Seem Easy To Restart Completely, It Isn't
Reach out to other coordinators and communities like The Volunteer Coordinator Resource Community on Facebook!

If you are just starting out as a Volunteer Manager in general, we have some more resources for you!